She hit the water with an icy shock.Chapter 2Everything was freezing confusion. Her head was under water and she was being tumbled over and over. She couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, and she was completely disoriented.Then her head popped up. She automatically sucked in a huge gasp of air.Her arms were flailing but they seemed tangled in her backpack. The creek was wide here and the current was very strong. She was being swept downstream, and every other second her mouth seemed to be full of water. Reality was just one desperate, choking attempt to get enough air for the next breath.And everything was so cold. A cold that was pain, not just temperature.I’m going to die.Her mind realized this with a sort of numbcertainty, but her body was stubborn. It fought almost as if it had a separate brain of its own. It struggled out of her backpack, so that the natural buoyancy ofher ski jacket helped keep her head abovewater. It made her legs kick, trying to stand firm on the bottom.No good. The creek was only five feet deep in the center, but that was still an inch higher than Gillian’s head. She was too small, too weak, and she couldn’t get any kind of control over where she was going.And the cold was sapping her strength frighteningly fast. With every second her chances of surviving dropped.It was as if the creek were a monster that hated her and would never let her go. It slammed her into rocks and swept her on before her hands could get hold of the cold, smooth surfaces. And in a few minutes she was going to be too weak to keep her face above water.I have to grab something.Her body was telling her that. It was her only chance.There. Up ahead, on the left bank, a projecting spit with tree roots. She had to get to it. Kick. Kick.She hit and was almost spun past it. But somehow, she was holding on. The roots were thicker than her arms, a huge tangle like slick, icy snakes.Gillian thrust an arm through a natural loop of the roots, anchoring herself. Oh-yes; she could breathe now. But her body was still in the creek, being sucked away by the water.She had to get out-but that was impossible. She just barely had the strength to hold on; her weakened, numb muscles could never pull her up the bank.At that moment, she was filled with hatred- not for the creek, but for herself. Because she was little and weak and childish and it was going to kill her. She was going to die, and it was all happeningright now, and it was real.She could never really remember what happened next. Her mind let go and there was nothing but anger and the burning need to get higher. Her legs kicked and scrambled and some dim part of her knewthat each impact against the rocks and roots should have hurt. But all that mattered was the desperation that was somehow, inch by inch, getting her numb, waterlogged body out of the creek.And then she was out. She was lying on roots and snow. Her vision was dim; she was gasping, open-mouthed, for breath, but she was alive.Gillian lay there for a long time, not really aware of the cold, her entire body echoingwith relief.I made it! I’ll be okay now.It was only when she tried to get up that she realized how wrong she was.When she tried to stand, her legs almost folded under her. Her muscles felt like jelly.And … it was cold. She was already exhausted and nearly frozen, and her soaking clothes felt as heavy as medieval armor. Her gloves were gone, lost in the creek. Her cap was gone. With every breath, she seemed to get colder, and suddenly she was racked with waves of violent shivers.Find the road … I have to get to the road. But which way is it?She’d landed somewhere downstream-butwhere? How far away was the road now?Doesn’t matter… just walk away from the creek, Gillian thought slowly. It was difficult to think at all.She felt stiff and clumsy and the shiveringmade it hard to climb over fallen trees andbranches. Her red, swollen fingers couldn’t close to get handholds.I’m so cold-why can’t I stop shivering?Dimly, she knew that she was in serious trouble. If she didn’t get to the road-soon-she wasn’t going to survive. But it was more and more difficult to call up a sense of alarm. A strange sort of apathy was coming over her. The gnarled forest seemed like something from a fairy tale.Stumbling… staggering. She had no idea where she was going. Just straight ahead.That was all she could see anyway, the next dark rock protruding from the snow, the next fallen branch to get over or around.And then suddenly she was on her face. She’d fallen. It seemed to take immense effort to get up again.It’s these clothes… they’re too heavy. I should take them off.Again, dimly, she knew that this was wrong. Her brain was being affected; she was dazed with hypothermia. But the part of her that knew this was far away, separate from her. She fought to make hernumbed ringers unzip her ski jacket.Okay… it’s off. I can walk better now…She couldn’t walk better. She kept falling. She had been doing this forever, stumbling, falling, getting up.And every time it was a little harder.Her cords felt like slabs of ice on her legs.She looked at them with distant annoyance and saw that they were covered with adhering snow.Okay-maybe take those off, too?She couldn’t remember how to work a zipper. She couldn’t think at all anymore. The violent waves of shivering were interspersed with pauses now, and the pauses were getting longer.I guess … that’s good. I must not be so cold—–I just need a little rest.While the faraway part of her brain screamed uselessly in protest, Gillian sat down in the snow.She was in a small clearing. It seemed deserted-not even the footprints of a ground mouse marked the smooth white carpet around her. Above, overhanging branches formed a snowy canopy.